MPs urge care in constituting inquiry into looting unrest
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Cape Town - PARLIAMENTARIANS said that procedures should be followed when an inquiry was constituted to probe the recent unrest KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
This emerged when the joint committee, consisting of over 50 MPs from six committees, met for the first time to discuss terms of reference and receive reports from the relevant departments yesterday.
The inquiry was ordered by National Assembly committee chairperson Cedric Frolick in consultation with his counterpart on the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
In a letter to police portfolio committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Frolick said there were indications of serious lapses in the ability of security services in handling the unrest in the two provinces.
He also said it was crucial for Parliament to get the complete picture, the reasons for the unrest, the consequences and the response of the state through an inquiry led by the police portfolio committee and relevant committees.
Frolick told Joemat-Pettersson, the preferred inquiry chairperson, that they should report back by the time Parliament reconvened on August 15.
But a presentation by legal adviser Siviwe Njikela raised some red lights that cast doubt on the procedures to form the inquiry.
Njikela said the rules stipulated that Parliament could establish joint committees when both Houses adopted their own resolutions. He also said an ad hoc committee could also be established when a resolution was adopted by both Houses; and “if both or any of the Houses are in recess, by decision of the Speaker and chairperson, acting jointly after consulting the Chief Whips of the majority party in the National Assembly and Council,” read the rule.
Joemat-Pettersson said it was clear they could not proceed with the inquiry. She said the necessary rules of Parliament should be followed before convening the joint committee.
During the discussion that ensued, some MPs showed interest in the inquiry. But, they were concerned about the arrival of documents very late and the size of the joint committee.
ANC MP Qubudile Dyantyi said the presentation from legal services raised a lot of doubts.
“The matter has got to be referred to the Speaker,” Dyantyi said.
He noted that the chairperson of committees of both Houses agreed among them on the inquiry instead of including NCOP chairperson Amos Masondo.
“We have no basis to even entertain (the matter) which is in front of us,” Dyantyi said.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the inquiry should take place considering the deaths and damage to property.
“All the whips must participate and make sure we come with a proper and above board exercise,” Holomisa said.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said they should absolutely make sure to follow procedures, as there could be a possibility of court cases from the investigation.
“If there is a procedural mistake we make, we will obtain what we want to obtain,” he said before raising concern on the size of the joint committee.
ACDP MP Steve Swart raised concern about the short time given to report back to Parliament.
“I don’t think it will do justice to a proper inquiry,” Swart said.
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard raised concern that documents arrived very late and the size of the committee.
Joemat-Pettersson said they took oversight work seriously.
“We will refer the matter to the whips and the Speaker and House chairperson. They will look at the composition of this committee and look at who will chair the committee,” she said. “They should discuss prescripts and what it is to be presented to them.”